Coming off of a big 27-7 win over the San Francisco 49ers has the Indianapolis Colts in good position to start the season 3-1, but there are some key matchups that the Colts will need to focus on in Week 4.
The Colts will be taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars this week, and they're likely to be heavy favorites in the game. The Jaguars are 0-3 to start the year, and they've scored just 28 points in those three games. The offense averages just around 230 yards per game.
Still, weren't the Colts underdogs in their game last week?
If the Colts want to ensure that they pull out the win, which is likely, they will need to focus on these key matchups.
Darius Butler vs. Ace Sanders
He may not have been the best cornerback on the outside, but Darius Butler has looked more comfortable this season when playing in nickel packages.
Butler's speed will be put to the test this weekend against Ace Sanders, the Jaguars' speedy slot receiver. While the offense hasn't been very successful for the Jaguars, Sanders has been one of the few bright spots. So far, he's had 10 receptions this season for 103 yards, averaging 10.3 yards per catch. He's also already had three catches for 20 yards or more.
We saw last week against the 49ers that Butler doesn't play his best when going against bigger, more physical receivers. According to Pro Football Focus, when Butler had to cover Anquan Boldin, he allowed three catches for 45 yards on four targets (subscription required).
However, when Butler had to guard Kyle Williams, he looked much better. Colin Kaepernick only targeted Williams when Butler was covering him once, and that was an incomplete pass.
When Butler is against a smaller receiver, he can tend to be more physical than his size would suggest. He does a good job keeping up with these smaller and faster receivers thanks to his aggressiveness.
This will be key for the Colts, as Sanders struggled against a more physical secondary last week, going against the Seattle Seahawks. He had just two catches for 25 yards.
The Colts may not be playing against the strongest quarterback, but at least this will be a good opportunity for us to see how Butler can play against another speedy receiver like Sanders.
Coby Fleener vs. John Cyprien
With Dwayne Allen out for the season, Coby Fleener has needed to step up. While he may not be as strong of a blocker as Allen, Fleener is certainly a more versatile player in the passing game.
In Week 2 against the Miami Dolphins, the Colts looked for Fleener often. He had four catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. He was only targeted twice last week, but he caught both passes for 13 yards.
This week could pose a big mismatch for the Jaguars secondary, especially when looking at John Cyprien.
Cyprien hasn't lived up to expectations up to this point in his rookie season. He was known as a big hitter in college, but he's struggled to make plays in the run game and has struggled even more in pass coverage. He struggled mightily against the Seahawks tight ends last week, so let's break it down here.
At first glance, it looks like Cyprien is playing in man coverage against the Seattle receiver. What happens next is what dooms Cyprien.
The young rookie sees his assignment going in motion, but instead of adjusting, he bites on the reverse, rather than staying home and covering the next closest eligible receiver, which would be Zach Miller or No. 86.
By the time Cyprien realizes his mistake, it's way too late to recover, and Miller is wide open.
These are the kinds of things that the Colts will need to do to this young safety. He's still working on understanding the playbook and reading the opposing offense, so the Colts should be able to take advantage of this.
Ahmad Bradshaw/Trent Richardson vs. Jaguars Run Defense
You know how the Colts want to establish the run in every game? Yeah, they shouldn't have much of a problem doing that against the Jaguars.
Through just three games, the Jaguars have allowed 503 rushing yards, more than anyone else in the NFL. Their opponents also average 5.2 yards per rush, the third-worst mark in the league. Pro Football Focus has them as the second-worst run defense with a grade of minus-30.2, with the Washington Redskins in last by quite a bit with a grade of minus-53.5 (subscription required).
As a team, the Colts ground game has looked better this season. The Colts have run for 439 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Those numbers are a bit inflated by Andrew Luck's ability to escape the pocket and take off, but it's still a big plus for a team that seems to be so focused on running the ball.
The Colts were able to show off their ground game last week against the 49ers, and while Richardson didn't have the best numbers, the rushing attack as a whole was quite impressive.
Keep in mind that Richardson was coming into the 49ers game with very limited knowledge of the offense. With a full week under his belt heading into the Jaguars game, expect Richardson to look more comfortable.
Meanwhile, Bradshaw's foot seems just fine, at least for now. He seems to be motivated with the Richardson trade, and hopefully that will carry over for the rest of the season.
The Colts now have an intriguing one-two combo in the backfield, and against this Jaguars defense, they should do just fine.